Zoë Roth plans to donate the proceeds to charity as well as paying off student loans.

By Ruth Kinane
April 30, 2021 at 10:01 AM EDT
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Turns out memes can provide more than just online laughs.

Back in 2005, when Zoë Roth was just four years old, she and her family went to see a controlled fire at a house near their home in Mebane, N.C. While Roth watched the fire burn, she turned and looked back into her father's camera, and the — now famous — pic was snapped of the young girl, looking creepily like she had something to do with the blaze behind her. Just like that, the "Disaster Girl" meme became a part of internet history.

After 17 years of the photo being circulated online, often with different backgrounds being inserted in place of the fire, — the Titanic sinking, dinosaurs being wiped out by meteors — Roth sold the original copy of her meme as a NFT (nonfungible token) for nearly half a million dollars at an auction last month. The meme sold for 180 Ether, a form of cryptocurrency, to a user identified as @3fMusic. The Roth family retained the copyright and will receive 10 percent of future sales.

"People who are in memes and go viral is one thing, but just the way the internet has held on to my picture and kept it viral, kept it relevant, is so crazy to me," Roth told the New York Times. "I'm super grateful for the entire experience."

Zoe Roth aka Disaster Girl
Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Roth, who is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying peace, war and defense, plans to use the money — which is still in cryptocurrency form — to donate to charities and pay off her student loans.

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